Study Says Older Adults Less Negative About Personal Computers
In a 10-year span from 1989 to 1999, older adults grew less uneasy using personal computers but were still wary of social changes caused by technology, a Ball State University study reports. A survey of 94 people 60 years and older in 1999 found 39.4 percent said they would never learn how to use a personal computer as compared to 66.3 percent in 1989.
The study, compiled by Ball State sociology professors Dr. Ione DeOllos and Dr. David Morris, updates a previous report by Morris done in the late 1980s when personal computers were relatively new in the average American home and business. The updated study is expected to be published in the Journal of Educational Technology Systems.
“In 1989 the personal computer was not nearly as widespread, less understood and more of a mystery to older adults,” DeOllos says. “These people had not grown up with the computer revolution and were less likely to own or use a computer.
“The 1999 response suggests ambivalence in attitudes which may simply be predicated by more exposure, contact and experience,” she added.
When asked if some people can’t be taught computer skills, agreement dropped from 62.2 percent in 1989 to 42.4 percent in 1999. “This reflects attitudes toward other people and may simply be indicative of real-life experiences such as community learning programs,” DeOllos notes.
When it comes to the social significance of computers, however, older adults believe that computer technology is damaging personal relationships. In 1989, 26.6 percent of the respondents agreed that computers isolate people by preventing normal social contact. In 1999, 50.6 percent agreed with the statement.
“While computers may facilitate some forms of social contact, it appears that respondents are concerned that close, person-to-person, face-to-face relationships are suffering,” DeOllos said.
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